When the All-American diner Denny's sought a representative from an HBCU to become a member of its All-Pancaker Team, they could not have landed a better prospect than Mark Evans II. The Arkansas Pine-Bluff offensive lineman is considered one of the best prospects at the guard or center position in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Evans signed a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deal with Denny's brand for the 2021 All-Pancaker team on Sept. 2. In football, offensive linemen are known for serving up the best "pancake blocks." Denny's chose Jalen McKenzie, Mark Evans II, Nicholas Petit-Frere, and newcomer Tristan Leigh to officially represent the company because of their "promising athletic careers, these remarkable young players have perfected pancaking the opposition," said John Dillon, Denny's EVP and Chief Brand Officer.
Evans shared, "coming from an HBCU and being an offensive lineman, we usually don't get the recognition or gratitude we deserve. So, it's great for Denny's to see me as a fit for their All-Pancaker team. It's just a blessing."
In a statement from Denny's, the "All-Pancaker Team members are hitting the turf running. As part of their sponsorships, they'll participate in Denny's brand initiatives, including starring in a Signing Day video and posting social content ahead of their game days, as well as promoting the brand's monthly Spotlight Stacks – a rotating spotlight on its best-selling, mouth-watering pancakes."
"This move is part of Denny's continued mission to bring people from all backgrounds together and to support talented individuals who align with its core values. In recruiting players to join the All-Pancaker Team, the company purposefully looked at star student-athletes from leading Power Five and HBCU schools across the nation as part of an ongoing effort to support the communities in which it serves."
Since the Houston, Texas C.E. King product arrived at Pine-Bluff, he has started on the Golden Lions' offensive line and received honors for his play. The biology major dreams of playing in the NFL and desires to pursue a career in anesthesiology. He enjoys reading books during the offseason and listening to hip-hop artists before games to "get hyped."
Nearly 20 HBCU players have earned active and practice squad roster spots for the 2021 regular season in the NFL. One of the more prominent HBCU representatives hails from UAPB. Offensive lineman Terron Armstead was selected in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Evans had the opportunity to meet him at the SWAC Championship game last season, and they "exchange texts," said the Golden Lion o-lineman. Mark patterns his techniques to the New England Patriots' standout offensive lineman, Isiah Wynn.
Evans registered his thoughts on HBCU players' futures in the NFL. "I believe there a plethora of guys ready to play right now and can get drafted and won't have to sign free-agent contracts [for the NFL that are from HBCUs]," Evans mentioned Alabama A&M's quarterback Aqeel Glass and teammates Jalon Thigpen, and Tyrin Ralph.
The SWAC's preseason first-teamer will battle his brother and Prairie View defensive end Jessie Evans in a couple of weeks when UAPB travels for a SWAC showdown. "Yeah, it should be fun. I'll beat up on him a little bit, like in the past," joked the elder Evans.
I like what I see and hear from Mark Evans as a person and player. He is smart and very engaging. Evans' Denny's "All-Pancaker Team selection is a great honor," but rest assured, he will one day "pancake defenders" on opposing NFL rosters in a few seasons.
I look forward to covering him in action.